Saturday, May 07, 2005

Being a grownup sucks

Nana isn't doing well. At all. Oh physically she's doing great. They've had her in PT, up on the walker and she's just blazing a trail down that hospital hall. But mentally, she's goofier than a runover dog. I'm not trivializing it, just stating a fact. She's plagued with bouts of lucidity then plunges back into incoherency again. I say she's plagued with lucidity because I would imagine it would be utterly horrific to know that you're confused and to know that the weird things going on around you aren't real, yet you are powerless to do a thing about it until your mind comes back from vacation. She's very frustrated by the fact that she knows she's not right anymore. I am devastated. As is my precious little sister, who tends to internalize and worry over everything, as true obsessive people do.

I did not go to see Nana on Thursday because I had spent the day with Abby's class at the reptile zoo, the park and then the fish hatchery, dragging two three-year-olds along. (The day was great, I'm not complaining. We had a blast and I have every intention of taking Mr. Diva and Sam to the hatchery because they will so groove on that.) But, the day had been long, we were all exhausted beyond belief and I just didn't have it in me to go up there. I was still worried about the confusion we'd seen the night before and I knew that as tired as I was, if she was talking silly I'd not handle it well. Thank goodness I didn't. She was way out of it. Said the "neighbors" were fighting and she'd been dodging bullets all night, she was scared of her doctor, etc etc. Mom sat with her awhile and said it wasn't a great thing to witness. It was too familiar to what she'd gone through with her own mother, I think. When Mom called me that night to relay all the information to me, I was devastated. It wasn't the news I wanted to hear and then the regrets started plaguing me.

I - and many other family members - have avoided Nana's phone calls lately because she's been having a really hard time talking. She's so very hard to understand on the phone and it frustrates all those involved. She's very understanding about it, but you know she had to be lonely. Now I am angry with myself for being so selfish as to my own comfort level and that I didn't just answer the phone and talk to my grandmother. Now I wonder if I'll ever talk to her the way she was again. When I hung up the phone with Mom, I broke down and had my very own, personal and private pity party and sobbed until there was nothing left.

I have been through mental illness with a grandparent before. My Mom's mom was diagnosed as a "paranoid schizophrenic with catatonic tendencies". She was in and out of mental institutions and hospitals my whole life. My Memaw was one of the kindest, gentlest, most soft-spoken women you'd ever have wanted to meet, but when her demons came to visit it was horrible. When I was a child, I was protected from the worst parts of her illness and as I got older, as Mom and Dad felt that we could handle more and we'd visit her when she was admitted for whatever reason. And as concerned as I was for MeMaw, it was almost old hat. She'd always been sick and I'm sure I didn't know the half of how bad it was. My parents did their best to make sure I never saw her cussing the nurses and cussing them or Papa, talking absolute jibberish or just lying in bed, staring at the wall, her mind God knows where. I only learned of that as an adult. As I became a teenager, she was admitted to a nursing home and we'd visit her. It was heartbreaking to see her in that bed, muscles atrophied and drawn up, sometimes coherent, sometimes not. Yet, she was my Memaw and I loved her dearly. But still I didn't worry about her, didn't fret over her, because like I said, she'd always been sick and that's just the way Memaw was. How selfish and self-centered I was.

Now I'm an adult and I am watching as my Nana takes a rapid downward spiral into the blackness that is most commonly filed under the blanket term, Senile Dementia. I am furious, I am scared, I am sad. Mostly sad. I find myself displaying and experiencing many emotions as all humans do. On any given day we can feel contentedness, happiness, annoyance, exhaustion, anger, frustration, elation, relief and depression to name a few. But do we ever feel sad on a regular basis? Actual sadness? I have really thought about this. I rarely ever feel sad. And I would say I'm pretty blessed to not have much sadness in my life. But when it comes around, rearing it's ugly head, I don't know quite how to handle it. I am panicking at my sadness.

Dad called Sis and I yesterday to inform us that Nana was doing much better and the dementia was gone. No confusion, no wild thoughts and stories - she was back. So Sis and I left the kids with Mom and Bub and went up there around 8 last night. When we entered her room, there was our precious grandma, sitting in that bed watching Law & Order. She smiled when she saw us and oh that was a good feeling. We started visiting with her, asking the usual questions you ask someone in the hospital - how are you feeling, did you get some rest last night, what has the doctor said etc. She was pleasantly answering our questions, smiling and joking with us when out of the blue - bam, the confusion was back. She told us that she had been kidnapped the night before by four women who live in the hospital and they taped her wrists together and made her stay there most of the night and that she had finally broke the tape and freed herself, beat one of the women up and came back to her room at 2:30am. I tried to gently tell her that "No, Nana, that's not real. That didn't happen," but she became beligerent and furious and I decided right then and there that I wasn't going to correct her again. Heather could if she wanted to, but I was staying away from that altogether. She told us some tales about what she'd experienced during her kidnapped times and Sis excused herself to go get a drink at the water fountain. Except there is no water fountain on her floor. She was hunting down a nurse to find out of maybe Nana had been taken for some tests and she thought she'd been kidnapped. The aide she found said she'd been in her room the entire time. So we listened to the stories, comforting her when she got very upset about it and then out of the blue she said, "You know, I'm pretty skinny. No bigger than a minute. There is just no way I could've beaten up that woman. I think I dreamed all that up." The hour and a half we were there was like that - she'd waver back and forth between sense and nonsense.

We had to leave around 9:30, for one thing the kids needed baths and bed, plus visiting hours were over and the nurses were doing walk-bys every two minutes. By the time we left, Heather was visibly upset. We no more got in the van and she was calling Dad. She told him everything we'd witnessed in that hospital room and I heard Dad audibly sigh on the phone. He said he'd had a suspicion for awhile now that she has Sundowner's Syndrome

("Individuals with severe brain insult show more abnormalities at the end of
the day than the beginning of the day. This is due to the phenomenon of
being tired. Neurologic abnormalities apparent at night may have transiently disappeared in the morning. In older individuals who have experienced multiple small strokes to the brain they may appear to be neurologically intact when they arise in the morning refreshed from sleep and neurologically impaired at night after a tiring day. 'Sundowner's' Syndrome has been the bane of young interns and residents who have admitted neurologically impaired patients to the hospital at night only to find them neurologically intact in the morning when presenting their case to their attending physician."

and this only made him think that even more because a few hours before he'd seen her and she was fine.

Then today, Mom, the kids and I went to AR to a crafts festival and Paul and Sis were frantically calling us mid-day to say that Nana had left a message on our answering machine: "Hon, call me at the hospital. I don't know my number. But I need you. Hurry." Paul came in from working on the playhouse to find that. So Sis got hold of Dad who had just left her and she was fine, just confused again. Sundowner's or not, she's obviously not mentally coherent. She's been moved to the nursing home, they took her around 4. I'm debating as to whether to go up tonight or to just wait till tomorrow, Mother's Day. I'm really not sure what to do tonight. I'm tired, but if she called me today - in a lucid moment or not - I feel like I should see her today.

One funny thing did happen last night, though. She was telling us about one of those women that had kidnapped her and had forced her to take some medicine that she can't take and she said, "She's real big. Real big," she said while she held her arms out wide. "She's just a very large woman," Then she turned to me and said, " Well, hon, she'd even make you look skinny." I just grinned and nodded while my little sister stood on the other side of the bed and bit her lip, turned red and snickered.


I promise I won't be this depressing all the time now. I just more than anything, needed to write down how I am feeling. You writers/bloggers know exactly what I'm talking about. Just bear with me, please. And continue to pray and send good thoughts our way.


Anonymous said...

Oh, K, I'm so sorry to hear about your Nana. I've heard that Sundowners is a very bad thing. I tell you what, we all quit trying to correct or argue with Grandma a couple years ago. She was convinced one time that my Uncle Charles had rearranged the entire living room while she was in the bathroom. She thought that the couch was on the wrong side of the room and that her chair was in the opposite corner, TV was moved, everything in the whole living room was moved. So she got up because she was pissed off at him for doing that. She went to her bedroom to get away from Uncle Charles and her backwards living room and when she came back in about 30 minutes, he had fixed everything back to the way it was before. Well, he hadn't touched a thing and he could not convince her that he hadn't. He finally quit trying to tell her and just accepted (as did the rest of us) with, I'm sorry I moved your stuff, I'll never do it again. We've finally learned to cope with her irrationalities and actually to laugh at the ludicrous things she says or does. At first it was very difficult, but as time went on, we all just had to see the humor in the sad places to be able to go on. I swear, the woman will spite us all and live forever.

Anonymous said...

I have never personally dealt with what you and your family are dealing with. Your poor Nana.

You are in my thoughts and prayers, hon. Always.

Anonymous said...

My Grandpa was the same way as your Nana. As a previous commentor said, you just have to find a little humor in the rantings and know that they still love you no matter what they say. My Grandpa tried to grab my wife's ass once. I guess he was reverting back to his sailor days. It was pretty funny since he was always such a pious person for as long as I knew him. I found out later that he was a pretty big "ladies man" in his days with the U.S. Navy. I kind of like to think of him like that. We would've gotten along great as shipmates. ;)

Irish Divinity said...

Diva, I'm sorry to hear this about your nana. It will be a long road but afterward you'll be glad your were there. My husband's grandmother had alzheimer's and as sad as it was there were times when you had to laugh. Whenever we went to visit her and I would get up to go to the bathroom she would ask my husband why he was there with Kevin's (his little brother) wife? We all still have a good laugh about that. She was convinced that I was actually married to Kevin, but when I was in the room she wouldn't let on that she thought anything was wrong.
If you need anything let me know.

Redneck Diva said...

I appreciate so much the comments! I try to find the humor in all of this when I can. Somtimes it's hard and other times it's all I can do to keep from guffawing out loud.

Thank you so much for being here.

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